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July 8, 2009

Ernie Els


MICHAEL GIBBONS: And good to have a double Barclays Scottish Open Champion with us. Your thoughts on the week ahead.
ERNIE ELS: I'm looking forward to the week. Every year coming to Loch Lomond is wonderful, a great piece of property. Played just a couple of holes yesterday and the golf course looks in fine form, great form and looking forward to the week.
I was actually at Turnberry on Monday ask Tuesday, and checked it out there. Only played four or five holes yesterday out here. But I'll check it out in the Pro-Am this afternoon and hopefully have a good week for a change.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: How is your game going into the next two weeks?
ERNIE ELS: Well, it hasn't been great. Obviously the U.S. Open wasn't wonderful. The week before that, I thought I got it figured out. You know, pretty good week at Memorial, hit the ball wonderful, hit a lot of greens, felt I was putting okay, but I didn't make much.
And then I didn't have anything at the U.S. Open for some reason. So it's kind of a bit of a blur there. I had two weeks off, played a lot of social golf with my friends down in Queenwood and Wentworth and hit the ball wonderfully. Made a bit of social cash on the side.
So form-wise, professionally, hasn't been a great year. You guys know that; I know that. But this is a nice time of the year for me, especially with The Open coming up and this week, so looking to turn things around.

Q. Your record in The Open is second to none in the last ten years; does that give you confidence coming in, and do you think that you can turn it around because of your past glory in these events?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, absolutely. I love links golf. I've loved it ever since I came over here in the middle 80s and took to it quite naturally, thankfully. So I love playing that kind of golf.
And yes, my record will help me hopefully to get some confidence going, and this will be a confidence-builder here, too, playing at Loch Lomond where I've won twice and have a pretty nice record here. I'd love to have a good week here, hit the ball good and hopefully make some putts and make some birdies and get some good scoring under my belt for next week. Hopefully that will help.
As I say, I was at Turnberry for two days, and that could be quite a beast if the wind comes up. The rough is very high and so forth. You need to strike the ball well. No matter what your record is like, you need to strike the ball well and have some kind of game going into any kind of major.

Q. Can you describe the conditions at Turnberry in a bit more detail, and also, can you tell us why it is that links golf allows -- you separate yourself from the rest of the world in links golf and don't in parkland golf, so what are the specific things about your game that creates that separation in links?
ERNIE ELS: Well, I played Turnberry, and it's very lush. They must have had a lot of rain up there unlike down south, until yesterday. But in any case, they are very lush, very green and I think that's the reason why the rough is so high. Even flying into Prestwick and driving down, everywhere, the countryside, the grass is up there like that. It's not like they put any steroids in the grass to let it grow but it is up.
So you are going to have to have a good game plan, probably play quite safe off the tees to get it in play and going in with longer irons depending on the breeze. We played it with a northerly, so the front nine was into the wind, so that forces you to play the long club off the tee. You have to hit driver off most of the tees there. And if you have downwind holes, you want to try and make birdies and really survive into the wind. It's a true links where you have out and in.
So you've got to strike the ball well. But to come back to your second bit, I've always felt that growing up in Johannesburg and parkland courses, wasn't suited to playing in wind. But you have a certain -- if you have talent, you adapt to certain conditions. And I feel a lot of that came from watching great players play on television, and you just kind of duplicate what they do. I watched The Open Championship on television for such a long time, and Seve was one of my heroes, you know, and the way he played the shots and his follow through and you could see the way his ball flight is. When you put yourself in that situation, you kind of do exactly the same thing, so I've learned a lot from those great players.
But the secret in playing good links golf is having a good strategy, sticking with that, having a lot of patience. But more than anything, really striking the ball solidly. If you don't strike the ball properly on links golf courses, you'll get found out. You won't have much of a chance.

Q. It seems that your putting has been your Achilles heel for a while now. Have you been tempted to trying the long putter or Claw or switching putters, or what sort of lengths has it driven you to?
ERNIE ELS: No, I haven't gone to the long putter or any of that. I think two years ago when JP was caddying for me, I think it I went cross-handed for a couple holes and I don't do that, either. So no.
I've tried some different putters. But I got Callaway Odyssey to make me the exact same putter I used in the 90s, and I've been using this same putter now for the most part of this year, and I'm adamant not to change. I've been watching some old video just to try to get the old feeling back, so I've been working on that a little bit.
So I feel like I'm striking the putts quite nicely. It's just a matter of them going in the hole now. But I want to stay patient this week on the greens and what I do and not try to rush myself around here to try to shoot a 64 if it's not there. I want to play the golf course and play every shot the way it's supposed to be played and really try and be very focused this week and try and enjoy it.

Q. And patience?
ERNIE ELS: Exactly, I've been losing my patience a little bit. As you know, in this game, you can't really do that. The more angry you get, the worse it can get. So I fall into that trap a little bit, too. I'm quite focused to play well this week, and into the future, so I'd like to start here this week.

Q. Graeme McDowell was in and saying that you cannot hide from the fact that this really is not ideal preparation for next week because of the type of golf it is, but do you think it can be detrimental to your chances?
ERNIE ELS: No, I don't think so. It's funny, I played Turnberry for two days and then I played maybe five holes yesterday, and it's definitely different. I mean, just the strike on the turf is so different. It's so soft here. Although Turnberry is playing soft for links type of golf, it's still a much different hit on the ball.
So it's not the most perfect preparation. We've known that for 13, 14 years since we've been playing here, but it's such a great tournament in itself that you don't want to miss this tournament, either.
You know, we talk about it every year but it seems like players who play well here this week take it into next week and play well there, as well. If you look at the records, it will show. I think competitive golf is a good preparation for major golf.

Q. When you have a season that's not going as you like and you're losing a bit of patience and you're getting a bit older, how hard is it to stop thinking things like: Well, I've had a good career and I've won as many times as I've won and I have a great family and all those sort of things?
ERNIE ELS: You do think about it and it almost in some ways gets tougher to get yourself motivated at times. But you know, I can't speak for any other players that's been in my situation or are in my situation, but I definitely still have a burning desire to do well and win golf tournaments.
You know, things haven't gone my way. In some ways I've been searching maybe a little too much for the perfect swing, the perfect putting stroke, the perfect driving, stuff like that and maybe I'm not different than any other player.
But I feel like I definitely have the drive and the desire to win more golf tournaments, and that's why I'm still trying. So I don't know when that will ever go. If it does, you know, I'll probably walk away, but right now, I'm still very, very dedicated to my sport and trying to win golf tournaments.

Q. Are you still playing social golf? You clearly love golf, even despite your troubles.
ERNIE ELS: I wish I could bring my social golf on to the tournament schedule.

Q. If you love golf I just wonder why, given sort of the trouble you've had with it the last few months.
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I think almost trying to become too perfect maybe, to try and hit the ball too perfectly.

Q. Why do you still love it?
ERNIE ELS: Why do I still love it? I can't answer that. It's been in my blood. It's been what I've always done. I know I've got other interests and stuff like that, but I basically started all of these other interests for me to have something to fall back on after golf. So everything is still driven by golf and by playing the game and by trying to perform. That's still the No. 1 goal, although I've got other things going.
I can't explain it. It's just always been there and I still try and improve. I still watch golf even on television, so it's a mad drug.

Q. You said you would probably walk away if you lost the desire and the competitiveness; would you never think about hanging about the game just for the sake of being part of it, if you can no longer compete to win?
ERNIE ELS: I think I'll definitely entertain that thought when it comes. It will be very difficult to just walk away. I've been doing this ever since I've had a memory. I don't think you can just walk away. It's not like -- maybe like tennis, tennis you play for such a short period of your life. Golf, you play, it's a lifelong sport, so just to walk away would be very difficult.
I'm into golf course design and stuff like that, and I'll always stay in the game, maybe open a management company or something. I think I can give young kids a very good couple of tips, you know, what to do and not to do, because we've done it all or maybe on television maybe, who knows.

Q. How much of a boost would it give you to do well, if you could win here this weekend ahead of next week?
ERNIE ELS: Well, that would be the ultimate, lift the trophy before next week, that would be unbelievable. As I said, I really want to put my mind to playing good golf here this week and really enjoy the course and enjoy myself and try and get some form going and hit some shots that I see in my mind and get some putts rolling in. And if I have a chance Sunday, I would love that. I haven't had that chance for quite some time now.
But I'm feeling good about the week and feeling good about being here, so it would be wonderful to have a good week, absolutely.

Q. Sorry to remind you about it, but your 40th is coming up in a few months. When you see what Vijay has done and what Kenny Perry is doing now, can you hope that there will be a new phase in your career?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I definitely think so. I'm in physically very good form. I feel great. My swing feels pretty good. I haven't lost too much distance through the years, maybe with the help of Callaway and the technology and so forth.
Physically I feel good. It's just a couple of mental issues when I'm on the golf course. Sometimes I'm not quite there for some reason, and I need to work on that and really get focused and see every shot and be ready to play every shot and be there for four days. Sometimes I'm only there for one day or two days of the week and I want to work on that, getting myself really mentally focused and playing hard for four days. And if I can establish that this week, I think it will go into weeks to come, basically.

Q. Is your social golf as good as you've ever played?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, at Queenwood, you know, I made seven birdies ask three eagles the other day against Johan Rupert and Barry Richards and Neil Thomas, who is club champion there. Just squeezed through to win 50 pounds.
We are doing the greens at Wentworth right now and it's coming on really nice. I think you guys will really be pleasantly surprised when you see it in November when we are done.

Q. You were saying you've still got the hunger to win more big tournaments. Do you still have the belief, as well, because I know you talked in the past about wanting the career Grand Slam and things like that. Do you believe that it should still be more majors in your future?
ERNIE ELS: Absolutely. I'm not turning 50; I'm turning 40. I think there's a big finish here. I think at 50 we might have a different discussion, but 40, I'm going into my 40s. I spoke to John this morning and we touched on players who have won a lot of golf tournaments in their 40s. We were talking about a guy, Kenny Perry, 48, who is third in the world right now; Vijay who won the FedEx deal last year and having played great, a little off this year. Ben Hogan, to go back, he won both of his majors in his 40s.
So there's plenty left there and there's plenty in the tank. I just have to go out there and get it going again.

Q. You talked about a couple of mental issues, is one a fat little guy inside your head that you used to talk about is back?

Q. You were talking about a couple mental issues. You used to talk about a little guy inside your head.
ERNIE ELS: On my shoulder, actually. (Laughing) I wish he could come back again.
No, no, any player out there has certain issues he has to deal with within himself. I'm not any different. I would say the world's best player probably has similar stuff. But it's just, you know, if you have a formula to deal with your issues or with your fears and stuff, you go through a certain process. I've got to do the same thing.
When you've done it for 20 years, you almost go into automatic mode and you almost don't want to be in automatic mode. You want to be putting it into second gear, third gear and then go. You don't want to just be floating around and I feel like I've been kind of searching, floating around a little bit, so let's get a little bit more drive and go.

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